Animal Rights Group Smash HLS Can Keep Protesting Miami Monkey Importer, Judge Rules

The activists in Smash HLS have never been shy about pushing the boundaries when it comes protesting Miami-based Worldwide Primates, a firm that sells monkeys sometimes used in scientific experiments. When a New Times writer hung out with the group last summer, they were marching outside the home of one primate dealer's 93-year-old mom.

Tactics like that led Worldwide Primates to file a lawsuit requesting a restraining order against the group, whose actions it compared to "the Tet offensive in Vietnam." A Miami judge disagreed, though, and has ruled the group can keep being a nuisance to the monkey importers -- for now.

See also: Smash HLS: Post-PETA Gorilla Tactics

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Stanford Blake tossed the lawsuit yesterday, ruling that the company had failed to show that 11 protestors from the group were causing emotional distress to an operations manager from the company.

But that manager, Joshua Resuta, can re-file the suit if he can cook up a new legal argument, the Miami Herald reports.

Smash HLS has been targeting Worldwide Primates for about four years now and deliberately has taken a more confrontational approach to their activism.

Here what we wrote about the group's foundation last summer and the philosophy of Gary Serignese, its leader.

But the conventional animal rights movement didn't sit well with Serignese. Passing out leaflets about the evils of Monsanto and tossing paint at celebrities wearing mink all seemed a waste of time. Groups should target specific businesses like suppliers, he says.

His model became Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), a campaign that got off the ground in 1999 in England by honing in on one company, Huntingdon Life Sciences, the country's largest animal-testing lab. In 2010, Serignese started a local group with the same agenda along with friend Nick Atwood, a balding and soft-spoken veteran campaign coordinator with the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF). They called it Smash HLS -- "Smash" in reference to a punk rock song by the British band Active Slaughter, "HLS" in homage to the Huntingdon group.

That's led to some controversial protests; Worldwide Primates told a judge that activists had pelted an employee's car with rocks and jumped on the hood.

"My client can't stand the anxiety of when the next violent attack will occur," Worldwide's attorney, John Sutton said in court, the Herald reports.

Smash's attorney, though, says the protests have been peaceful. And if they're annoying the firm and it's employees -- well, that's kind of the point.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink